Watching the Watchers

In a tree the creature drowsed, eyes half open, near invisible with its skin pigment shifted to the mottle of the birch branches around it. It could see down into the garden and across to the house. It had seen the couple in the bower below, and somewhere in its reactivated mind there was a long-dormant memory.

It had not always been alone. Had there not, in another forest long ago - though it could not say how long ago - been more than one of it? It - she - had a mate, and cubs. She remembered the cubs playing in the forest clearings, mock-wrestling and jumping on one another, teaching them fighting and hunting skills. She remembered the first time one of them ambushed a rabbit, tore its throat out and chewed happily, then took the bloodied carcass to its mother and shared the meat with her and its siblings. That was their way. You shared the prey if there was another nearby of your kind. But here, in this unknown forest, there was none. She was alone. Not her mate, not even her cubs.

Who has taken my cubs? she thought, and shook with anger. She lay back against the branch she had slept on, and howled. She knew this might bring attention - her kind, while top of the predatory tree, were not free from all danger, humans and bears could kill them if they so chose. But she did not care. At very least, if there was another of her kind nearby, it might hear her and come and find her. Otherwise, what did she have to lose? She had only her mission, and she was not even sure about that.

The man looked out through his window. She could see him looking, his face alarmed, in her direction. Certain he could not see her, she remained still all the same. He had heard her howl and was afraid. This was unfortunate, she thought. The time for frozen fear should come later.

The End

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